Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lyrical Contradictions in Sweet Home Alabana, Livin' on a Prayer, and Paper Plans

Sweet Home Alabama is the ubiquitous feel-good song. It lends itself to everything from summer road trips to drunken frat parties to scenes of Forrest Gump dancing inflexibly with his Jenny. Its easy mix of blues, country, and rock tends to obscure the fact that it's been a politically-charged and highly controversial song for over 35 years. Seriously, how often can a song about Southern racism, the town that jailed Martin Luther King, Jr., the guy who famously said, "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!", and Nixon's boldfaced Watergate scandal get your toes tapping?
A little history puts the contradiction into better perspective. In 1970 and 1972, Neil Young released Southern Man and Alabama, respectively, which contained angry accusations of Southern, cross-burning bigotry. Despite being from Jacksonville, Lynyrd Skynyrd took it upon themselves to write Sweet Home Alabama in 1974 as a response to Young's attacks. (Not to mention, Retirement Home Florida just doesn't have the same ring to it.) Although the combination of upbeat music and dark politics seems strange, the formula obviously works; rather than fight fire with fire, Skynyrd made their response light and inviting, which gives it the impression of brushing Young's accusations off as ineffectual. (See also: I'm rubber, you're glue.)
Sometimes, self-contradiction is what makes music work. Just think of Bon Jovi's 1986 hit Livin' on a Prayer, a song is about union strikes, blue-collar jobs, reaganomics, and fighting to make a relationship work. If that's not enough for you, its protagonists, Tommy and Gina, are inspired by two of Bon Jovi's high-school friends whose dreams were interrupted by an unintended pregnancy. Despite the fact that these themes make most people want to tuck tail and run, the song soars and triumphs in the tradition of arena rock. Hell, the music video even features Bon Jovi literally flying on wires over the Olympic Auditorium in LA. So what gives? Let's break the song down by stanza.
The first and second stanzas have a dark, inorganic sound that puts you on edge, especially with "woah woah woah" coming through the talkbox. Beginning with "She says we've got to hold on," the third stanza lifts the song's mood somewhat, but now there's a high, repeating keyboard note that sounds remarkably like the "re! re! re!" from Psycho. Although this stanza sounds like a chorus, before you know it, Bon Jovi is belting out, "Ohhhhh, we're halfway there!" This makes about as much sense as screaming, "Woo! We're scraping by!", but there's a kind of desperate joy in saying "screw it" in the face of impossibility. The implication of this musical buildup is clear: victory against the odds. And just when you think you've got the song figured out, Bon Jovi takes the third repetition of the chorus up to an inimitably high note, which seems to suggest that in music as in life, the third time is the charm.
For a more modern musical take on unexpected juxtapositions, let's have a listen to M.I.A.'s Paper Planes, which you probably recognize from Pineapple Express, Hancock, or Slumdog Millionaire. This catchy 2007 tune discusses using and selling drugs, forging visas, and killing people; however, what makes it controversial is its use of children's imagery, melodies, and voices in portraying the criminal lifestyle. The song's "paper planes" are a metaphor for getting high; its "pirate skulls and bones" correspond to "lethal poison"; its "sticks and stones" are followed by "weed and bombs"; the line "Some, some, some I, some I murder" has the sing-song feel of a jump-rope refrain; the chorus is sung by a child's choir and contains gunshot and cash register noises: "All I wanna do is [blam blam blam blam] and-a [click, ka-ching] and take your money."
The song claims to raise the issue of "third-world democracy," so why the unnervingly cheerful melody? By challenging our expectations, M.I.A. pushes our collective outrage button; apparently, we've gotten to the point where expressing anger in an angry fashion just doesn't get anyone's attention. (Sorry, Neil Young.) Moreover, the song addresses the fact that criminality sometimes seems like the only option for impoverished people in the developing world - including children. (Think back on news interviews with Somali children who literally aspire to be pirates when they grow up.) Paper Planes brings delinquency back down to the human level by showing it from a child's point of view. "Everyone's a winner," the lyrics say, reminding us that for much of the world, deviant behavior is the only way to feel in control of an otherwise helpless situation.
Shmoop is an online study guide for poetry like Sweet Home Alabama, Livin' on a Prayer, and many more. Its content is written by Ph.D. and Masters students from top universities, like Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, and Yale who have also taught at the high school and college levels. Teachers and students should feel confident to cite Shmoop.

A Tiger Woods Song Is the Best on the Internet

The rapper Jermaine Coleman, also known as Maino, is now number one on the Internet with a song about Tiger Woods, the golf player who cheated on his wife several times. The song is entitled "Get Em Tiger" and the lyrics were inspired from the scandal which kept the first page of the international newspapers at the end of last year.
Some of the lyrics Maino sings suggest that Tiger Woods needs help because he thinks he has a problem. Apparently, he thinks he loves all the women he sees and he would be faithful if he could. The song was released on YouTube and is listened to more than fifty-seven thousand times every day. It seems that this song is considered to be an anthem dedicated to all the men who have relationships with more than one woman. In fact, it seems to be an anthem for all men, this being the rapper's declaration for Daily News.
Jermain Coleman declared that his intention is not to defend Tiger Woods, but he also declared that he understands the American sportsman, just like all the other men do. He also declared that the song has a lot to do with him, too, but that Tiger Woods has been sacrificed for all the bad things men do. He claimed that the song is mainly about him, not about Tiger Woods, but that he needed a symbol to make the song more successful. Apparently, this worked quite well for him, the song being very popular, at least on YouTube.
If you want a new golf clubs set, you can now visit us at, a website dedicated to all those who love golf.

The Best of 80s Hair Metal Bands

Who could forget the metal bands from the 80s and early 90s with that big hair? The hair style alone made a stand out fashion statement. The music was big, flashy, and glamorous just like the hair of the band members. This particular type of heavy metal was very popular in California near the Los Angeles and Sunset Strip areas. The music is characterized by long solo guitar rifts also called shred guitar and hard rock with a mix of pop.
Hair metals bands not only made great music, they made an impact on our culture by introducing a new way of life. Band members weren't happy with sitting around, hanging out, and producing hits. They had to party as if tomorrow would never come and dress to the nines with big teased hair, makeup, and over accessorizing. Their late night parties were infamous, and you could also read about a band member creating some scandal in a tabloid magazine.
If you aren't quite sure what bands are classified as hair metal bands, here is a small list that will explain or spark some memories from "the good old days."
Guns N' Roses consisted of band members Axl Rose, Dizzy Reed, Tommy Stinson, Chris Pitman, Richard Fortus, Ron Thal, Frank Ferrer, and DJ Ashba. Some of their hits include songs such as: Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child O' Mine, and Paradise City.
David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Wolfgang Van Halen, and Alex Van Halen make up the band known as Van Halen which originated out of Pasadena, California. You could party all night like the rock stars listening to their hits songs like: Dance the Night Away, Can't Stop Loving You, and Runnin' With the Devil.
Another band originating out of Los Angeles in the 80s was Quiet Riot. They have gone through many band members, but the original formation was Kevin DuBrow, Randy Rhoads, Kelly Garni, and Drew Forsyth. They are best known for their hit Cum On Feel the Noise. Other hits by Quiet Riot include: Metal Health, Party All Night, and Callin' the Shots.
Motley Crue is the quintessential 80s hair metal band. They partied harder than any other band and were always in some type of trouble. The band consisted of members Nikki Sox, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, and Tommy Lee. Too Fast for Love, Girls Girls Girls, and Dr. Feelgood were all hit songs by the band.
All of the bands listed above have a few things in common, and the most important being that they are metal hair bands. All the bands partied hard, had numerous tattoos, teased their hair to make it big, had run ins with the law, and originated from California. Some other famous 80s hair metal bands are: Savatage, Twisted Sister, Cinderella, Slaughter, Poison, Whitesnake, and Kiss.
You don't have to time travel back to the 80s to hear some of your favorite songs. You can find Internet Radio websites that have 80s channels that will play some of the hits from these great bands listed.
Jeff Bachmeier is owner of, an online music and online radio station network providing live streaming Internet Radio channels with music from the 50's thru Today. Users can also choose to create their own customized on demand playlist through their own social media profile. For more information please visit

The Original DJs

From raves to clubs, DJs have never been more popular. The first DJs were entirely different, but broke the ground for what followed.
One of first famous DJs was Alan Freed who was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1921. Freed became an international celebrity in the 50's and 60's and is credited by some people as being the Father of Rock and Roll. Although other people were playing and promoting this music before Freed, he did coin the expression and was largely responsible for it popularity. One of the real contributions that Freed made to music and society was his promotion of African American artists.
During a period when racial conflict was at its height, Freed is given credit for doing a lot to foster a sense of racial integration in the minds of a whole generation of American youth. He eventually began to use the name "Moondog" as his on-air persona. On March 21, 1952, The Moondog Coronation Ball was held in Cleveland, Ohio. This event is considered to be the first Rock and Roll music concert. It was so popular that it was ended early because of the overcrowding. Despite all of Alan, Moondog, Freed's contribution to culture and music, his career was destroyed by the Payola Scandal in the late 1950's.
In the 1960's, a young aspiring DJ was influenced by the on air antics of Moondog Freed. His name was Robert Weston Smith and he had been born in Brooklyn, New York in 1938. He developed his own on-air persona called Wolfman Jack. The Wolfman was known for his wild on-air behavior which included his trademark of howling at the moon. Wolfman Jack was featured in George Lucas's feature film, "American Graffiti" in 1973. Playing himself, he was the disc jockey that tied the events of the film together with his on air banter.
Wolfman Jack reached the peak of his career after the Payola Scandal that destroyed the reputation and career of his mentor, Alan Freed. Payola was the term given to the money paid directly to a disc jockey to play and promote certain music. In 1960, this practice was declared illegal and control of what music was played began to be assumed by the program director. After this, it was not as easy for an individual DJ to have as much influence on the type of music played and made Wolfman Jack's accomplishments and fame even more amazing.
Today, there are many famous DJs. They are famous in their play areas and they are famous among the clubbers who flock to hear their music on Saturday night. They are famous among the couples that put off their weddings for a year or more to insure that their "famous" DJ is booked for their reception. They may not have the power to dictate the type of music that will become popular, but they reflect our choices and entertain us with the music we love.
Find DJ equipment suppliers near you at

3 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Pianists From The 1950's

In the realm of popular music it is a sad fact since the 1960s the great pianist has faded away. With the advent of the electronic keyboard first in the form of an electronic organ and eventually into the synthesizer, the traditional piano has been left to the balladeer. The piano is now associated with sad, slow songs. However in the 1950s there were some great, powerful pianist that could rock the house with the traditional acoustical sound.
Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis also known as The Killer was born in Ferriday, Louisiana. He grew up playing piano with his cousins Jimmy Swaggart and Mickey Gilley. However, arguably his strongest influence came from a black juke joint that was operating during his formative years. His greatest hits include Great Balls of Fire and A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On. Unfortunately, during his peak productive years a scandal altered his career when he married his 13 year old cousin. It took decades for his reputation to be rehabilitated, but it did recover and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the inaugural year.
Fats Domino
Fats Domino was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and is best known by his nickname rather than his given name of Antoine Dominique Domino, Jr. He is known by a number of hit songs like I'm Walkin' and I'm in Love Again, but Blueberry Hill is his signature tune. He stayed with his first label Imperial Records for over a decade and had all his hits with them. After leaving Imperial his new, larger label tried reconfiguring his style but that did not workout. Adding to Fats' decline in popularity was the change of musical taste that came in the 1960's. Still, his influence spread wide and many of those 1960's artists credit him with impacting their work. Fats is another inaugural year Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
Little Richard
Many consider Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniman) one of the main architects of rock and roll, including himself. His style of play can be seen in the performances of many subsequent artists even in the modern era. Born in Macon, Georgia his style could be considered an amalgamation of all the best musical elements of the South including black gospel and the blues. He had a quick succession of hits between 1955 and '57 that included Tutti-Frutti, Long Tall Sally, and Good Golly, Miss Molly. Then he quit performing rock and roll to enroll in Bible college. Like many others of his era, when he returned to performing in the early 1960's musical tastes had changed. Still, Little Richard has been a pervasive representative for the founders of rock and roll. He also was an initial inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The greatness of these artists is that they all had to perform while behind a keyboard and singing into a microphone for each performance. There was no pre-programmed keyboards or recorded tracks. Also, considering that their performing styles were groundbreaking, defining a whole genre, it is amazing that they were able to pull together music, vocals, and performance to make music history.
Imitating all great artists starts with learning the instrument. And for the aspiring pianist it starts with piano lessons.

Is the Law of Attraction a Lie? HELP! The #1 Reason Why LOA Teachers Fail, Fall and Flounder

There is nothing more bothersome to me than seeing people succumb to fear, insecurity and confusion about popular "success" strategies. And if you've been paying attention to the law of attraction style stuff for any length of time, and have NOT had any success, you are unquestionably going through a doubly difficult time right now.
Why? Because in combination with the usual amount of self reflection and internal "soul searching" that goes along with trying to figure out why we're not getting what we want... the recent suite of scandals to rock (and shock) the LOA "universe" is stunning to say the least.
The Emperor, as many of us have come to be acutely aware... often has no clothes. And when it comes to many manifestation gurus and teachers, their inability to avoid scandal, trauma and now SEVERE societal scrutiny is truly troubling if you've tried to live YOUR life, by their teachings.
If this sounds like you, (as it once did me) here is what I want you to understand:
Every movement of "personal power" has been rife with scandal. People are flawed by nature. And just because someone has the "key" in one area of life, doesn't mean that they are equally as proficient, with every other. You can be a GREAT mathematician, for example, and understand the very fabric of the universe in an intimate and amazing way. But that doesn't mean you have relationship skills, or the ability to work well with others, or even really to contribute your "gift" to society at large.
Many people over the years, have struggled with this dichotomy in following their leaders. Priests and Rabbi's who teach scripture, yet cheat on their spouses. People who are AMAZING at their chosen fields and expertise, but terrible parents. So too are many of the leaders of the Law of Attraction and "Manifestation" movement knowledgeable, charismatic and often profound on one hand, but poor leaders or even irresponsible (or inauthentic) in other areas of their lives.
Remember this though: It doesn't matter. There is TRUTH, and if you believe something works for you, in an authentic sense, use it. Live it. Work it, try it and make it yours. You do NOT need the guidance of a "guru" to achieve unbridled success. And often simply recognizing that alone, is the biggest breakthrough we need.
You CAN Program Your Mind for INCREDIBLE Success in an INSTANT (and we want to help you do it!)
Start by DOWNLOADING our FREE Manifestation Interpretation Software Right Here! (it will POWERFULLY uncover what your DREAMS really mean... and it's super cool, popular and a lot of fun!)
LIFE MASTERY LABS: The Very Best FREE Cutting Edge Tools, Tips & Technologies For Total TRANSFORMATION

Are Banquet Hall Selections Tricky?

Picking the right banquet hall can be undeniably tricky. There is often a wide field to choose from, all providing different venues and different experiences to go with them. The right choice can lead to a party guests speak of for months afterwards, the wrong choice leaving a sour taste that lasts just as long. Fortunately, there are a few things any prospective host can do for a party that's the talk of the town, instead of its scandal.
Of the two big steps you should take, the first is checking prices. Your celebration can't happen if you can't afford it in the first place. Shop around, call around and compare prices. No reputable banquet hall is going haggle, but almost all of them will have modular sets of services, from different items that can be placed or removed on a menu they offer, to whether or not you go with a cash bar. This is also how you can find out about special services a hall might offer, that could help make your event unique.
Next up is making the trip out to the prospective hall to take it all in. This will help you decide if the spacing, decor and overall ambience is right for you. While you're there, you can meet with the hall's staff to discuss your event, even to arrange food tastings to let you decide if their culinary staff is right for your party. It can seem counter intuitive to put in all this legwork for what should be a festive occasion, but it is that very preparation that helps make for an affair to remember.
The quality of food is another major issue. The only way you can tell if the food is good or not is through references and personal taste. Avoid website testimonials because they are usually false and put up by the hall itself. Insist on getting phone numbers to call. Make sure that you get a tasting of the food you have selected.
You can always change the atmosphere of a banquet room, but you can not change food quality. People always remember great food.
The major factors which determine your choice in a banquet hall selection are: price, location, quality of food and ambiance. I think that if you decide that you can offered the venue, you should make sure that the food is good. Bad food can ruin a party.
If you plan ahead and investigate all selection choices of halls, you will choose the appropriate banquet hall for you.
Norm Kay has been writing articles for nearly 15 years. Come visit his latest website over at which gives tips on finding a kosher catering in Toronto.

Modern and Chart Hype

Crushed by the wheels of industry. The Modern and chart hype.
UK retro glamsters The Modern have been unceremoniously thrown out of the singles chart. They have been found guilty of attempting to fix their chart position by bulk buying both CD's and downloads. The band crash landed in the chart last week at number 13. I don't think it would have been the sales patterns that alerted the OCC to the fix but the simple fact that a record so shockingly awful could have entered the chart that high.
Chart rigging is an art form that has been perfected by record companies over the years. As an ex record shop employee I have been known to not scan certain records through the reader in a vain hope of lowering chart positions and scan a few sly ones for my favourite artists. Working for what was one of the big chains at the time I never got offered bribes but friends who worked in local independent shops did. Free t-shirts, cd's or gig tickets where offered in exchange for a few extra swipes of the light pen. This was in the age before electronic tills, yes I am that old.
Payola Scandals (paying for airplay) are as old as rock n' roll itself. In 1959 the first major investigation in payola began and it quickly gathered evidence that resulted in 25 DJ's being charged. The highest profile casualties of the scandal where Dick Clark and Alan Freed. Freed the John the Baptist of rock n roll refused to accept or deny the claims had it ruined his career.
Payola is not consigned to history. In 2000 a Texas Radio station was fined $2,000 for being paid to play Bryan Adams records. Its likely that the fine would not have even been the cost of a single play that the station charged. In July 2005 Song/BMG settled with the New York attorney general Elliott Spitzer to the tune of $10 million. According to some unnamed sources, the pay-for-play was quite overt with one Sony executive saying that "Please be advised that in this week's Jennifer Lopez Top 40 Spin Increase of 236 we bought 63 spins at a cost of $3,600.
The UK market in the 80's used the mass marketing of singles in order to promote/force records further up the charts. Singles released in a varity of format, single, picture disc, coloured vinyl, poster pack, double 7" single the list was almost endless.
The result was that the chart company now restricts formats to only three styles of release. One of these must still be a physical format such as CD, vinyl or cassette. The Gorllias reportedly released just 300 copies of the single "Feel Good Inc." in a 7" vinyl format only in order to get the single into the lower reaches of the chart three before the download became available. It was a kind of promo release with chart in its sights.
The Official Chart Company issued the following statement regarding the modern;
During the course of last week OCC's market research agency identified unusual sales patterns related to the physical formats of this release. Further security checks revealed that significant bulk purchases had been made on this single through one online retailer.
Many of the bulk sales identified were traced to persons and/or organisations seemingly connected to the band. For this reason OCC took the decision to disqualify the record from the chart published on Sunday (March 12) as the vast majority of sales could not be verified as genuine purchases by music buyers.
The OCC added that while they make small allowances for keen fans trying to improve their favourite band's chart placings, in this instance "standard data checks revealed hundreds of copies being purchased by a handful of individuals. Under these circumstances to preserve the integrity of the Official Top 40 the action was taken to remove the single from the chart
So the Modern's problem seems to be the stupidity of the method that they used and not the fact that they where cheating the system.
Mind the records are so poor that they where bound to get caught.
For reviews of the last two Modern singles go here:
Jane Falls Down
Tony Heywood 2006 ©

Britney Spears - Scandals and More Part 1

Britney Spears has been the spitting image of the worlds successful and famous. She has been the most loved performer that young girls ever wanted to become. But due to unfortunate instances, this gal has begun to act strange and surprise her millions of fans in the entire world. She has been involved in a lot of scandals and intrigues that people have no idea that she would do. What happened to pop princess Britney Spears? Has she fallen for the spark of success that she already forgot the things that she did?
Read on for you to have an idea of the crazy and weird stuffs that the pop princess has been subjected to. Below are the top 6 scandals which involved her name back then.
1.         She married and divorced after 55 hours. All of the pop star's crazy behavior started after she had married her childhood sweetheart Jason Alexander in Las Vegas in 2004. It was an unannounced marriage which shocked her fans. What is even more shocking is when she divorced him after 55 hours.
2.         She married Kevin Federline. Within that same year after she married Jason, she also wedded a rap artist named K-Fed. The two had two sons together. Seems like all good things come to an end for her since they also divorced their marriage after two years.
She was caught driving while five-month-old son is lying on her lap. After her chaotic divorce with his ex husband Kevin, Britney Spears has seen partying all night and acting in bizarre ways. She was caught driving while holding her then five-month-old son on her lap. Because of this, her parenting skills were doubted by the people.
Find out more about Britney Spears and get the latest celebrity gossip news on Wooden Spears celebrity gossip blog

Notes On A Scandal - February 1976

Notes on a scandal...February 1976 ... a look back at music and celebrity history
JOHN DENVER: "I Enjoy Hash!"
Reported in Rona Barrett's Hollywood, February 1976, the all-American boy, singer "John Denver" recently shocked the nation when he announced that he doesn't get all his "highs" from the Rocky Mountains.
In a recent visit to Australia, Denver is quoted as saying, "sure, I enjoy hash, I use it. I have a lot of fun with the stuff." As reported, Denver was referring to the drug "hash," which (was stated,) is the strongest part of the marijuana plant.
"But it's like alcohol," he went on to explain. "It should be handled with responsibility. You shouldn't let it get out of hand. You can get stoned on marijuana...but you can get high just being up in the mountains. He went on to say, "I'm not suggesting that kids ought to use it, I'm just saying that I use it and I don't figure it's doing me any harm. Everyone should make up their own mind on that sort of thing."
The article goes on to say that his comments came as a complete surprise to his legions of fans who considered him one of their leading organic, homespun citizens. After his comments were heard around the world, countries expressed their surprise and disappointment over the singer's announcement. After a press conference upon Denver's arrival in Australia, an Australian newspaper reported that Denver's comments "endangered" his status in the country. The Reverend Fred Nile, director of Australia's "Festival of Light," stated that he felt that Denver should be deported if he continued to smoke marijuana in Sydney: "He should be dealt with in the same way as other pop stars caught with drugs," he said.
The article finishes with: "the 'clean-cut' image Denver worked for so many years to achieve looks like it may be gone forever...Far-out!"
One of the world's best-known and best loved performers of the 60's and 70's, John Denver, earned international acclaim as a songwriter, performer, actor, environmentalist and humanitarian. Spanning three decades, he received many music awards as well as honours, including the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Music Award in 1993 and being inducted into the American Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1996.
In 1963, Denver left home and moved to Los Angeles to be a part of the nascent California music scene. With his new home came a new name. The former Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. chose the stage name John Denver, in homage to the beautiful Rocky Mountain capital city of his home state, Colorado. He never looked back.
In no time Denver was climbing the Pop charts with songs like "Take me Home, Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High," "Sunshine On My Shoulders," "Annie's Song," "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," and "Calypso." These Pop-hits, (today's background music for the geriatric crowd) cemented his position as one of the decade's top pop stars. During his peak, sales included 14 gold, and 8 platinum albums in the U.S. as well as numerous gold and platinum sales overseas.
On October 12, 1997, Denver was killed when the Long-EZ aircraft he was piloting ran out of fuel just off the coast of California - although the experimental aircraft is designed for fuel-efficient long range flight and can fly over ten hours and up to 1,600 miles on 52 gallons of fuel (it is equipped with a rear fuel tank which allows a Long-EZ to fly for 4,800 miles.) Although Denver was an experienced pilot, he had only flown the Long-EZ for a one-half hour orientation flight the day before the accident.
Prior to the accident, the FAA found that Denver did not meet the medical standards prescribed in Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations due to his ongoing drinking problem, and a determination was made that he was not qualified for any class of medical standards at the time of the accident. Reports state that there was little left of the wreckage and that dental records were needed to identify the pilot as John Denver.
Devorah Macdonald

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mumbai attacks terror trial opens in U.S.

Mumbai attacks terror trial opens in U.S. - World - CBC News

Mumbai attacks terror trial opens in U.S.

The U.S government's key witness in the trial of a Chicago businessman accused in the 2008 Mumbai attacks testified that he first started training more than a decade ago with a Pakistani militant group that got assistance from the country's main intelligence agency.

Businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 50, is accused of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in the Mumbai attacks that saw 10 Pakistani gunmen storm train stations, luxury hotels, and a Jewish community centre over three days in 2008. More than 160 people, including two Canadians and six Americans, were killed.

The trial is being closely watched worldwide for what testimony might reveal about suspected links between the Pakistani militant group blamed in the rampage on India's largest city and Pakistan's main intelligence agency, which has been under increased scrutiny since Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces on May 2 outside Islamabad.

This 2009 photo shows the grocery store owned by Tahawwur Hussain Rana on Chicago's Devon Avenue, home to one of the largest South Asian business enclaves in the U.S.This 2009 photo shows the grocery store owned by Tahawwur Hussain Rana on Chicago's Devon Avenue, home to one of the largest South Asian business enclaves in the U.S. Paul Beaty/Associated PressOf particular interest is the government's main witness, David Coleman Headley, who is co-operating with prosecutors after pleading guilty to taking photos and videos of targets in Mumbai before the rampage. Rana, who could have faced the death penalty, is accused of providing cover for Headley by allowing him to use his Chicago-based immigration services business as a cover when he travelled to India.

Headley, Rana's long-time friend from boarding school, told jurors on Monday that he received weapons and leadership training with the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba since 2000 and it was his understanding that Lashkar and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, known as the ISI, co-ordinated with each other in general. He did not immediately give any specifics.

Headley said that when Lashkar leaders began talking about a possible attack in India, he suggested that he get involved.

"I suggested that I change my name and make a new passport to make it easy to enter India undetected," Headley testified.

Rana, 50, has pleaded not guilty and his attorneys say their client was simply taken advantage of by his longtime friend. Headley and Rana, a Pakistani-born Canadian who has lived in Chicago for years, met at one of Pakistan's most prestigious military boarding schools and stayed in touch as adults.

Defence attorney Charles Swift told jurors during opening statements that Headley, a Pakistani-American, was a "manipulative man" who "balanced multiple lives" including working for Laskhar-e-Taiba, Pakistani intelligence and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration at the same time.

"David Headley ... has been manipulating people for years. Dr. Rana is by far and away not the first," Swift said during opening statements.

Prosecutor says Rana was not duped

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Steicker said Rana was not duped and knew of the plans. She said Rana provided cover for Headley and led him to pose as a representative for his Chicago-based immigration business. She also said Rana knew and supported a separate plot that never happened against a Danish newspaper that had printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and that Rana and Headley had talked about at least four other plots. She gave no further details.

"The defendant knew all too well that when Headley travels to a foreign country, people may die," Streicker told jurors.

Streicker said the government will show jurors evidence including emails between Headley and Rana that were written in code. She said Headley considered Rana "his best friend in the world."

"The defendant didn't carry a gun or throw a grenade. In a complicated and sophisticated plot, not every player carries a weapon. People like the defendant who provide support are just as critical to the success," Streicker said.

Attention to Rana's trial has increased in recent weeks, especially amid questions about whether the ISI had knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts. Security has been tightened, with more armed guards and a metal detector outside the courtroom in downtown Chicago, and many reporters from Denmark and India are covering the proceedings.

"The trial has the potential to be an irritant and already has been in what's happening in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship," said Daniel Markey, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Given the Indian media attention, it'll stoke Indian concern about what Pakistan has been up to."

But some experts are doubtful the trial will reveal much new. For one, federal prosecutors may work hard to keep any sensitive information from surfacing in the courtroom, and Headley's credibility has been under question.

Headley, born Daood Gilani, reached a plea deal with prosecutors in the terrorism case in exchange for avoiding the death penalty and avoiding extradition. He's also been an informant for the DEA after a drug conviction.

Rana is the seventh name on the indictment, and the only defendant in custody. Among the six others charged in absentia is "Major Iqbal" and Sajid Mir, allegedly another Lashkar-e-Taiba supervisor who also "handled" Headley.

Missouri tornado death toll climbs to 116

Missouri tornado death toll climbs to 116 - World - CBC News

Missouri tornado death toll climbs to 116

A massive tornado that tore a 10-kilometre path across southwestern Missouri killed at least 116 people as it smashed the city of Joplin, ripping into a hospital, crushing cars and leaving behind only splintered tree trunks where entire neighbourhoods once stood.

City Manager Mark Rohr announced the new death toll at a Monday afternoon news conference. He said seven people had been rescued, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he was "optimistic that there are still lives out there to be saved."

Authorities warned that the death toll could climb as search-and-rescue workers continued their efforts. Their task was made more miserable early Monday by a new thunderstorm that brought strong winds, heavy rain and hail.

Much of the city's south side has been levelled, with churches, schools, businesses and homes reduced to ruins by winds of up to 320 km/h.

Jasper County emergency management director Keith Stammer said about 2,000 buildings had been damaged. Joplin fire Chief Mitch Randles estimated the damage covered a quarter or more of the city of about 50,000 people about 250 kilometres south of Kansas City. He said his home was among those destroyed.

An unknown number of people were injured, and officials said patients were sent to any nearby hospitals that could take them.

Police officers staffed virtually every major intersection as ambulances screamed through the streets. Rescuers involved in door-to-door searches moved gingerly around downed power lines and jagged debris, while survivors picked through the rubble of their homes, salvaging clothes, furniture, family photos and financial records, the air pungent with the smell of gas and smoking embers.

Some neighbourhoods were completely flattened and the leaves stripped from trees, giving the landscape an apocalyptic aura. In others where structures still stood, families found their belongings jumbled as if someone had picked up their homes and shaken them.

Nixon had said earlier that he feared the death toll would rise but expected survivors to be found in the rubble.

"I don't think we're done counting," Nixon told The Associated Press, adding, "I still believe that because of the size of the debris and the number of people involved that there are lives to be saved."

The National Weather Service's director, Jack Hayes, said the storm was given a preliminary label as an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters. The rating is assigned to storms based on the damage they cause.

Crews found bodies in vehicles the storm had flipped over, torn apart and crushed like empty cans. Triage centres and temporary shelters quickly filled to capacity. At Memorial Hall, a downtown entertainment venue, emergency workers treated critically injured patients.

At another makeshift unit at a Lowe's home-improvement store, wooden planks served as beds. Outside, ambulances and fire trucks waited for calls. In the early hours of the morning, emergency vehicles were scrambling nearly every two minutes.

California must free thousands of inmates: top court

California must free thousands of inmates: top court - World - CBC News

California must free thousands of inmates: top court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday endorsed a court order requiring California to cut its prison population by tens of thousands of inmates to improve health care for those who remain behind bars.

The court said in a 5-4 decision that the reduction is "required by the Constitution" to correct longstanding violations of inmates' rights. The order mandates a prison population of no more than 110,000 inmates, still far above the system's designed capacity.

There are more than 142,000 inmates in the state's 33 adult prisons, meaning roughly 32,000 inmates will need to be transferred to other jurisdictions or released.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a California native, wrote the majority opinion, in which he included photos of severe overcrowding. The court's four Democratic appointees joined with Kennedy.

"The violations have persisted for years. They remain uncorrected," Kennedy said.

Justice Antonin Scalia said in dissent that the court order is "perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation's history."

Scalia, reading his dissent aloud Monday, said it would require the release of "the staggering number of 46,000 convicted felons."

Scalia's number, cited in legal filings, comes from a period in which the prison population was even higher.

Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia's opinion, while Justice Samuel Alito wrote a separate dissent for himself and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Prisons designed to hold 80,000

The case revolves around inadequate mental and physical health care in a state prison system that in 2009 averaged nearly a death a week that might have been prevented or delayed with better medical care.

The facilities were designed to hold about 80,000 inmates.

The state has protested a court order to cut the population to about 110,000 inmates within two years, but also has taken steps to meet, if not exceed, that target.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would reduce the prison population by about 40,000 inmates by transferring many low-level offenders to county jurisdiction. The state legislature has yet to authorize any money for the transfer.

Kennedy said the state could ask for the court order to be modified to allow for up to three additional years to reach the 110,000-inmate target.

Obama woos Irish before heading to England

Obama woos Irish before heading to England - World - CBC News

Obama woos Irish before heading to England

Beaming before an exultant sea of people in central Dublin, U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday revelled in his distant Irish ancestry, offering spirited thanks from tens of millions of Americans who trace their own connections to Ireland.

With his wife, Michelle, at his side, the president told many thousands who had gathered: "We feel very much at home."

In a speech devoted as much to personal pride than overt politics, Obama said he had come to reaffirm the bonds of affection between the United States and Ireland.

"There's always been a little green behind the red, white and blue," he said to cheers.

Barack Obama drinks a pint of Guinness beer on Monday as he meets with local residents at Ollie Hayes pub in Moneygall, Ireland, the ancestral homeland of the U.S. president's great-great-great grandfather.Barack Obama drinks a pint of Guinness beer on Monday as he meets with local residents at Ollie Hayes pub in Moneygall, Ireland, the ancestral homeland of the U.S. president's great-great-great grandfather.Pool/Associated Press

Obama spoke shortly after he had downed a pint of Guinness in tiny Moneygall, the small Irish village where his great-great-great grandfather once lived and worked as a shoemaker.

It was an improbable and memorable pilgrimage for America's first black president into his Irish past, and Obama soaked it in.


"My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas," the president said. Then, playing off the popular Irish spelling of surnames — O'Bama — the president said, "I've come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way."

The president struck a more serious tone in marking the adversity of Ireland's history and current times, celebrating a country that shares a resilient success with America.

"We're peoples, the Irish and Americans, who never stop imagining a better future, even in bitter times," Obama said.

Obama addressed roughly 30,000 people packed into College Green for an open-air event billed as a celebration of Irish culture.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny introduced the Obamas to a crowd that made clear its desire that he step aside for their distinguished guest as quickly as possible. "Obama!" they chanted as Kenny, undeterred, continued to proclaim the inspiration of Obama's life story.

"The 44th president is different, because he doesn't just speak about the American dream — he is the American dream!" Kenny said before surrendering the podium to thunderous cheers.

Ash cloud

Obama was originally to spend the night in Dublin before flying to London on Tuesday. But an approaching ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano has forced the crew of Air Force One to move up that flight.

Obama and wife Michelle arrived in London well ahead of schedule. Air Force One touched down in London late Monday. They are on an official state visit at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth.

The president plans to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss a range of international issues, including Libya and Afghanistan.

Obama will then travel to Deauville, France, to meet with the heads of leading industrial nations before ending his trip with a visit to Poland, a strategically important Central European ally.

An overarching theme of Obama's trip — his eighth to Europe since taking office — will be to reassure the region that it still has a central role in U.S. foreign policy, even though Obama has put a premium on boosting U.S. relations with Asia and emerging markets elsewhere in the world.